Friday the 13th: Fearing immobility?

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

By Cathleen Kronemer

For centuries, the number 13 has been considered unlucky, or even downright bad luck. While the number 12 has historically been viewed as the number of completeness, 13 has been seen as an outlier, something that lies distinctively outside the main body or group of which it is a part.  We have 12 months in a year, 2 sets of 12 hours in each day, 12 eggs in a dozen, 12 Tribes of Israel…but 13 what?  Furthermore, why is it that when this date falls on a Friday, its scary nature becomes magnified?

As for our family, this year’s Friday May 13th is my mom’s 82nd birthday, a joyful occasion to celebrate.  Sadly, Mom is not in the best shape. Combine spinal stenosis, sciatica and a torn rotator cuff with dialysis 3x/week for over 5 years, and suddenly this equation does not come with an easy solution.

I encounter many individuals in the gym who fall within the same age demographic as my mother. Often I find myself pondering the question, “Are these the lucky senior adults, the ones blessed with good genes enabling them to be so mobile, flexible and strong of body and spirit?  Or, have they just committed themselves to a diligent lifelong exercise regimen in an effort to remain physically vibrant well into their 70s, 80s and 90s?”

There is no easy answer. Since Mom is in Chicago and we live in St. Louis, I can only do so much to empower her.  She can say, “Okay, okay, I’ll try, Honey!” all she wants when we chat daily; but when she hangs up the phone, I am fully aware that she is only going to do what she wants, what doesn’t hurt, and what provides her with the most security.  Often, that means allowing others to do for her what I keep hoping and wishing she could do for herself.  

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As a professional, I always believe it is never too late to make a change for the better. Here in the St. Louis community, opportunities abound for those senior adults who want to make such changes.  We have St. Louis NORC events to enhance the mind and engage the social dynamics; exercise classes designed for individuals who may be experiencing limited range of motion or flexibility but who still wish to remain active; indoor and outdoor swimming pools with lap lanes as well as aquatic exercise programs; personal trainers and physical therapists capable of designing customized protocols for a variety of needs and goals; and the list goes on. The only thing lacking here is the same thing lacking anywhere: no “Exercise Police” to force folks into submission. 

Yes, the desire to empower one’s life must come from within.  Even if a medical professional suggests or tries to insist that a patient become more physically active to achieve better health and well being, nothing is going to happen until that individual decides it is time to finally “become a verb” and get moving. (Believe me, we have all tried with Mom! I speak to you from experience!)

So this year, on Friday the 13th, kick the scary habit of being sedentary, or relying on others for everything, and motivate yourself or the loved ones around you to make a change. Shifting toward physical empowerment can transcend the gym, the pool, and the physical therapist’s office; it can help to mobilize one’s energy, outlook, and ultimately one’s overall health.

Are you brave enough to try?